NEW DELHI: A deep divide within two senior Congress leaders, Jairam Ramesh and Digvijaya Singh, came to the fore on Monday during the party’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra in the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir. The two leaders clashed over the Pulwama terror attack which took place in the UT on February 14, 2019, just a couple of months ahead of the last Lok Sabha election.
While speaking in an event organised for the Congress MP Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, Digvijaya raked up the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strikes carried out by the Indian armed forces against terrorist hideouts in Pakistan on February 26, 2019.
Digvijaya, a Rajya Sabha MP, said, “They (BJP leaders) talk about surgical strike. They claim that they killed several people in it. But there is no evidence. They are ruling only by speaking bundles of lies. I want to tell you that this country belongs to all.”
The Pulwama attack and the air strikes had become a major issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. While several Congress leaders had demanded proof of the surgical strikes, the BJP got an edge because of the emotive issue, winning 303 of the 543 seats.
On Monday also, the BJP condemned Digvijaya’s remarks over Pulwama attack and the surgical strikes. Party co-in-charge of West Bengal Amit Malviya said, “On a day, #IndiaHonoursParamVeers and Prime Minister Narendra Modi names 21 islands of Andaman and Nicobar after 21 Param Vir Chakra awardees, Congress and Digvijay Singh speak the language of Pakistan’s deep state, question the valour and integrity of our Armed Forces. Shame…”
On being asked by media persons during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Digvijaya stuck to his stand and repeated his remarks said earlier. “Definitely there have been lapses in the Pulwama terror attack,” he reiterated.
Congress general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh, who was walking behind Digvijaya, was seen coming forward and intervening. While covering Digvijaya, he pushed the TV reporter and removed his mic. “Don't divert, don’t divert,” he was heard saying.
It seems Digvijaya was not the one to take things lying down. Moments later, he posted a Twitter video in which he said, “In the Pulwama attack, 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives. The BJP government has not been able to reveal till date after all where did the 30 quintal RDX come from. Besides this, they have not been able to reply about the whereabouts of deputy superintendent of police Devender Singh who was caught alongwith the terrorists. Why was he let off? Why were sedition charges not slapped on him? I also want to ask the PM about his relations with the Pakistan PM. Both are praising one another.”
Digvijaya’s remarks forced Jairam to issue a rejoinder on behalf of the Congress party. The party distanced itself from Digvijaya’s remarks. Incidentally, both Digvijaya and Jairam are closely associated with the planning and execution of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
In his rebuttal, Jairam said, “The views expressed by senior leader Digvijaya Singh are his own and do not reflect the position of Congress. Surgical strikes were carried out before 2014 by UPA government. Congress has supported and will continue to support all military actions that are in the national interest.”
However, Amit Malviya rejected Jairam’s rejoinder and said Digvijaya had aired the Congress party’s stand. “Rubbish. Raising questions on India’s Armed Forces, their integrity and valour, is a considered position of the Congress party, which had systematically weakened our forces, and reduced India to being a soft state. Just that it has now become politically counter productive.”
Malviya unleashed an attack on Jairam and the Congress. He said, “Digvijaya Singh shut down. Jairam Ramesh is the new tyrant in town, crushing media freedom with impunity and killing whatever little semblance of democracy there is in the Congress party… Rahul Gandhi’s courtiers are ushering in the dark days of Emergency, again!”